Well, TCU football is back, and so is the rollercoaster of emotions that typically accompanies it. While the hours before kickoff felt like Christmas morning, the 37-34 season-opening loss to Iowa State felt like getting socks from your least-favorite aunt.
Here are three figures who gave reason for TCU fans to be hopeful this weekend and three who made us flash back to missing bowl eligibility a year ago.
1. Max Duggan
I know. Didn’t TCU fans already love the sophomore more than they probably should? Absolutely. They likely feel even crazier about him after Saturday, though, and for good reason.
After a first half of TCU struggling to find much rhythm offensively on Iowa State’s end of the field, Patterson elected to bench starter Matthew Downing for Duggan on the Frog’s first offensive possession of the third quarter. After taking his first two drives to get loose, the Council Bluffs, Iowa, native put together one of his best performances to date.
On his third drive, Duggan followed a nice punt return by JD Spielman with a strong nine-yard run and a dime to Taye Barber for his first touchdown of the season. The young signal callers’ strong decision-making, precision, and prowess just felt right. Max Duggan was back.
Getting the ball back down two with four minutes to play, it looked like Duggan would be the knight in shining armor for TCU. If it were not for a bobbled catch by Taye Barber, Duggan just might have done it. Nevertheless, he finished 16-for-19 with 241 yards and three touchdowns in just a half of football.
Last Monday, we didn’t know when Max Duggan would play football again. On Saturday, he was back, reminding everyone in Fort Worth just why they loved him so much.
2. Quentin Johnston
If you do not know the name “Quentin Johnston,” write it down. The second-highest recruit in the Patterson era flipped from Texas to TCU right before signing day in December, and the Frogs have been excited about him ever since.
The 6’4”, 193-pound wide receiver lived up to the hype in his first outing. Midway through the second quarter, Downing hit Johnston over the middle for what looked like would be a nice gain. Instead, Johnston broke through the tackle and exploded to the endzone for a 37-yard score to put the Frogs on the board.
Johnston finished with two catches for 50 yards, giving TCU fans a small taste of what could be a legendary career in the purple and white. His combination of size, strength, and hands should be nasty for the Frogs this year, especially in the red zone.
3. Noah Daniels
After losing starting cornerbacks Jeff Gladney (Minnesota Vikings) and Julius Lewis, Patterson had a tough job on his hands in finding support for Tre Moehrig and Ar’Darius Washington in the secondary.
Junior Noah Daniels got the start on Saturday, and his performance gave the Frogs that at least one side of the field will be locked up this season.
After missing all of 2019 with injury, Daniels finished Saturday with three tackles, all solo, and a pass defended. While his numbers were not huge, it’s primarily because Cyclones’ signal caller Brock Purdy simply didn’t target Daniels’ side of the field in the latter portion of the game.
In the postgame press conference, Patterson talked about the security that Daniels brings, saying it’s nice “to have a guy on the boundary that you know can press and is able to get off and do things.”
1. Gary Patterson
You read that right. I am already blocked on Twitter, so here we go. This is not meant to be harsh criticism, as I would never want anyone but Coach P leading the Frogs for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, I have to question the biggest decision he made on Saturday—leaving Matthew Downing in for the entire first half.
After TCU’s first four drives, they had missed a field goal and then punted three-straight times. Downing had not been awful, but the Frogs were getting swallowed up by the Cyclone’s defense once they crossed midfield. He finally did throw a touchdown with six minutes left in the half, but it came on an electric play by Johnston.
Patterson’s decision to bench Downing was likely confirmed when the quarterback fumbled on TCU’s 17-yard line to practically hand Iowa State seven points going into the locker room at halftime.
Downing finished 11-for-21 with 159 yards and a score, which is fine against a solid Cyclones defense. That’s just what Downing was, though—fine. In fact, the most impressive thing the transfer did was hurl the ball almost 60 yards on a hail mary attempt at the end of the first half.
After watching Duggan ball out in the second half, Frog fans can only wonder if they would have woken up 1-0 on Sunday had Patterson put his more-experienced quarterback in earlier (or even started him).
2. The entire TCU offensive line
It was expected that the Frogs would struggle to protect the quarterback after losing three starters to the NFL; however, GP gave us hope last Tuesday when he said the line had made “strides” in fall camp.
Either they did not show those “strides” on Saturday, or the beginning of fall camp was UGLY. Downing and Duggan were sacked a combined seven times on Saturday, with 3.5 of them coming from Iowa State JaQuan Bailey alone.
Despite debuting a much-anticipated running back core, TCU gained just 99 yards on the ground in the contest.
Especially in the first half, it felt like whoever was under center for the Frogs was under pressure on every play. In fact, Downing’s one touchdown pass came on a play where he got rocked as he threw. His fumble late in the first half also came on a massive hit from his blindside.
What makes this all most depressing is that Iowa State was not exactly bringing a massive brigade at the quarterback. The Cyclones ran a three-man front for most of the game.
If TCU wants Duggan, or Downing, or either of them, to make it to December, they are going to need to figure out a way to protect them.
3. Taye Barber
This was my least favorite part of this list. Barber had a heck of a game for most of the afternoon. His 82 receiving yards were his third-most all time, and he showed seasoned concentration in hauling in Duggan’s first touchdown pass of the year.
On the other hand, Barber let his team down when they needed him most. With four minutes, his mind went to his footwork before securing the ball, and he bobbled Duggan’s pass on a simple curl route. The mistake gave the ball back to the Cyclones, and they would score the clinching touchdown three plays later.
While I do not blame the loss on Barber, he has to be better in crunch time. Nevertheless, the junior will be a huge piece for TCU this year, and I’m excited for what he can achieve as Duggan’s primary target.
TCU looks to bounce back at No. 9 Texas on Saturday at 11 a.m.